A new study suggests that without climate mitigation, most countries will suffer economic consequences by the year 2100.
The findings reveal climate change will likely have a larger impact on global economies than previously believed, Stanford University reported. Rich countries are predicted to see a slight economic "uptick," but it will be short lived as temperatures continue to rise. Policymakers are scheduled to meet in Paris this December in hopes of negotiating an international climate treaty, and these new predictions could prove valuable. Understanding the fiscal cost of future climate change could help policymakers decide how much to invest in emissions reductions.
"The data tell us that there are particular temperatures where we humans are really good at producing stuff," said Marshall Burke, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. "In countries that are normally quite cold - mostly wealthy northern countries - higher temperatures are associated with faster economic growth, but only to a point. After that point, growth declines rapidly."
The "tipping point" temperature is believed to be about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and as average temperatures move towards this mark countries will begin to take economic hits. Poorer countries in the tropics will likely see the most dramatic effects because they are already past this threshold. This means climate change could widen the global inequality gap.
To make their findings, the researchers looked at records from 166 countries over a 50-year period from 1960 to 2010, and compared average temperatures to economic output. The data showed a hill-shaped relationship between economic output and temperature. Output appeared to rise until the 55-degree threshold, and then steeply dropped off as temperatures continued to increase. In a future scenario of unmitigated climate change, a model predicted that by 2100 the per-capita incomes of 77 percent of countries in the world will have dropped. The predictions suggested global incomes could decline 23 percent by 2100. Researchers have often theorized that richer countries with high levels of technology will be relatively protected from the effects of future climate change, but these new findings suggest otherwise.
"The data definitely don't provide strong evidence that rich countries are immune from the effects of hot temperatures," said co-lead author Solomon Hsiang, the Chancellor's Associate Professor of Public Policy. "Many rich countries just happen to have cooler average temperatures to start with, meaning that future warming will overall be less harmful than in poorer, hotter countries."
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Nature.